I could not understand exactly if the word to galvanize suggests some violant action? Is it neutral or does it have a meaning more encourage or more incite especially in as the following context? Or can we say it has meaning " raising awareness"

How social media galvanized the community in Ferguson.



4 Answers 4


While "galvanize" nowadays is mostly used to describe the plating of zinc on steel, in this particular case, it means (from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/galvanize)

3. to startle into sudden activity; stimulate.

It derives from the same root as the zinc usage, and refers to the application of an electric current, originally from a galvanic battery. The Wikipedia article on Galvanization https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galvanization states,

Originally, galvanization was the administration of electric shocks, in the 19th century also termed Faradism. This sense is the origin of the meaning of the metaphorical use of the verb galvanize, as in galvanize into action, or to stimulate a complacent person or group to take action.

So, although it does mean "to raise awareness", it means more than that, and implies that awareness was raised to the level of taking action.


I think the OP is right that the verb galvanize in this context means to raise public awareness of the accident.

The Free Dictionary says that it also means to arouse to awareness or action.


I've heard it used to indicate that a person has suddenly and vigorously started from rest, as in "apply an electric shock to them and see them move quickly".

  • This is a correct usage. From the "Galvanic Response" already mentioned in a comment under the question: galvanization is actually an application of the galvanic effect, which was first observed when it was used to cause dissected frog legs to twitch on their own.
    – Chenmunka
    Nov 13, 2015 at 11:33

Dr. Luigi Galvani, Italian Doctor in the 1700s used electricity to cause a dead frog legs to twitch. Galvanize is the term used to describe that later expanded to most anything stimulated by electricity or shock.

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